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Why You Should Food Journal

Posted on April 14, 2016 at 11:22 AM by Lia Bahls, RD

If you’ve ever come to an appointment and met with one of our dietitians you have most likely been asked if you food journal or if you would food journal for the next appointment. We don’t ask this of you just to make your life more difficult. We ask you to complete this for the multiple benefits you reap when you are able to pay attention to the food you eat.


Listed below are a few of those benefits we think you’ll notice if you start a food journal:


Accountability. I have had a few patients mention that they don’t want to or don’t like to journal because it makes them think about what they’re eating. The thing is, that’s what we’re hoping for. We want you to think about every piece of food that you consume; yes, I am talking about that small handful of M&Ms you grabbed off your co-worker’s desk. Those count; they have sugar, fat and calories just the same as the food you ate at your planned meal. Being accountable to the food you eat helps to decrease consumption and can cause you to stop and think about that handful of M&Ms and if it’s worth the sugar and calories.


Awareness. Maybe you didn’t realize that every time you pass your co-worker’s desk you grab a handful of candy. Food journals can assist with seeing how much you’re eating throughout the day and the food choices you are making.


Emotions. Journaling helps cue us into emotions related to eating. We may ask you to write down what was going on or how you felt when you ate. This can help us to see what the underlying cause of your eating may be such as a stressful day at work or an event that led to overeating.


Assessment. Food journaling allows dietitians to review and pinpoint problem areas for the patient such as not getting in enough calories, or specific macronutrients, at certain meals or throughout the entire day. It can help us to find healthier options for the patient to replace as well as figure out when and what education is necessary. 


Journaling doesn’t have to be difficult. There are a couple of options for your food journal including a written journal, which we can provide, as well as using an app on your phone such as MyFitnessPal and our own Iowa Weight Loss Specialists app. The online apps do allow you to see your macronutrients and calorie intake, which for some can be overwhelming and for others can be the boost in making changes.


If we ask anything, it’s to be honest with your journal. It will not benefit you to lie about the foods you are eating or to avoid tracking certain foods because you’re ashamed you ate them. We do not judge. Knowing everything that you are eating is the only way for the dietitian to assist with healthy changes.      

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